May 16, 2015
How can we use lenses creatively? This week we’re looking at depth of field, focal length, field of view and aesthetics.
We’ve all seen videos explaining what all the numbers on lenses mean. Too often, we default to a wide aperture for a shallow depth of field, and change the focal length until we have the closeup or wide shot we’re looking for. There’s got to be more to it than that.
CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S DSLR GUIDE:
THE REST OF THE SERIES:
PART 2 Going through lots of lighting setups, focusing on the way that we can use lighting to tell a story.
PART 1 Looking at the deeper meaning behind cinematography choices, starting with framing and composition.
PART 4: How can we use sliders, jibs and tripods creatively?
Looking at the ways we can tell a story visually, rather than always relying on dialogue to explain things.
DEPTH OF FIELD:
Here’s the clip from The Incredibles that uses depth of field brilliantly. Pulling focus to something that the character is distracted by is a great way to show someone losing focus. In this case, it also visually represents where the character would rather be – fighting crime. I think it’s very interesting that the entire rest of the film pretty much happens as a result of Bob focusing on something outside of the window.
Skip to (0:38):
This film uses telephoto lenses in a practical yet creative way. We can see things compressed in the foreground and background which really seals the idea of the character being under surveillance.
Skip to (3:26)
WARNING: CLIP BELOW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS
It’s difficult to put into words why the use of telephoto lenses works in this scene. I’m talking about the shots in the busy streets of New York, where he’s amongst a sea of people, and completely careless about what they think of him. Something about the slight slow motion, and telephoto compression just really works for the atmosphere of the scene. Obviously the music plays a big part, and of course the most significant thing is the scenes leading up to this point. It’s only after getting to know the characters and seeing his struggle that this scene works fully.
FIELD OF VIEW:
This is a great introduction to different shot types, which can serve as a basis for your own research and interpretation into how these shots can be used. There is no single explanation for how to use different shot types creatively, so it’s something you can make your own ideas about, from your interpretation of other films.
Detail, colour, flaring, distortion, chromatic abberation, bokeh etc. There are subtle differences between every model of every brand of every type of lens. Unless you’re working on a multimillion budgeted project, I think you’ll have plenty of other things that you could worry about rather than subtle differences between lenses. The video below has some comparisons of different priced glass, and it’s pretty interesting to see how similar they are.
BACK TO THE BASICS:
Filmmaker, and host of DSLRguide. Since I was making my first film age 11, I have always been fascinated by the way films are produced, and the effect it can have on the audience.